Recently, Sea Connect has celebrated its tenth anniversary in St. Petersburg. Vyacheslav Puzemsky, СЕО of Sea Connect, gave SeaNews an interview about the company history, the changes in the container shipping market in Russia and abroad, and his forecasts for the near future.
Vyacheslav, Sea Connect has been in business for 10 years. How did the container market in Russia and abroad and the company itself change during these years?
10 years ago Sea Connect was a completely different company from it is today. During that period, economic trends were changing, nominated agents were changing, and our strategy has evolved from a purely feeder liner operations to door-to-door Short Sea shipping with a broad intermodal service network in Europe. Sea Connect has proved to be a customer oriented company providing efficient customer service. We always find solutions quickly and deliver cargo on time, even in the most difficult situations.
Are the trends we see in the Russian container market in line or, on the contrary, contradict the global trends or those that you see in other countries where Sea Connect operates?
We see container trade growing in Europe and some difficulties with land-based logistics arising from the increasing cargo traffic. Terminal delays occur as vessels have to wait for berthing windows.
In Northwest Russia, terminals are well-prepared and have a sufficient capacity reserve to handle the growing container traffic.
There is no doubt that technologies are changing very quickly in the world with automated terminals, unmanned ships, complete digitalization – quite recently all this seemed to be science fiction, but today it is a fact of life.
Labor efficiency plays a huge role in competition.
10 years ago, we started with Excel tables, but today we cannot imagine our work without powerful software support.
But I still remain a romantic and believe that shipping is a human business and it is people working in our Company, my colleagues, that make it a success.
Today, we can see a large-scale consolidation in the Deep Sea market. Is this trend also typical of the Short Sea segment, and what are the current trends in this market?
In Western Europe, consolidation, mergers and acquisitions in the Short Sea segment are already there and in process. I think we will hear about large-scale deals in the Baltic Sea market before the year-end. Our Company also received such offers, but for now we have been withstanding, and are happy about this decision. Today, same as 10 years ago, the Company remains profitable and has good financial results.
What is your short-term forecast for the container market, first of all, in Russia?
I am sure that the Russian market will be growing in the long term, and many various cargo types will be containerized. I think that the growth grain export, for example, will stimulate containerization. Road haulage tariffs will grow, and intermodal and rail services will expand. Inland shipping, which for now has almost no share in container transportation, is also likely to get more involved as new trimodal terminals will appear in various regions of the country.
If 10 years ago when you were just entering the market, you’d had the experience and the knowledge you have today, what would you have done in a different way?
Of course, there were some things that should have been done in a different way, but they were not really important. The Line had always followed the cargo and the trends. We have never missed the opportunity to use unexpected situations transforming them into trends, which served as a basis for the new offers we made and new services we launched. During the 10 years we came to understand how important each customer is, no matter small or large, and that a wide customer base can offset the loss of even a large cargo flow. That’s why we seek to handle each container as the most important one.